So here we are again. End-of-year shenanigans are nearly upon us, as we AMG folk get geared up and frantically weed out the pretenders and consolidate our end-of-year lists for what is sure to be another actioned-packed and contentious edition of Listurnalia. But let us not get too carried away. Although the primo releases start to dry up as we close in on December, there are usually a handful or more of key releases to fuck up your list preparations. Enter Netherlands band, Bloodphemy. Previously unfamiliar with the band, a little digging revealed Bloodphemy are a veteran outfit, operating in the underground realms since forming in 2000. Debut album Section 8 followed in 2002, then fifteen years in the wilderness went by before they unleashed a sophomore LP in 2017. Since then, the recording output has locked into a steadier schedule, arriving at their latest album, and fifth overall, entitled Dawn of Malevolence. Let us explore what Bloodphemy have to offer in 2023.
Bloodphemy cut to the chase from the outset, laying their cards on the table. Rambunctious opener “Convoluted Reality” gives a solid taste of the Bloodphemy formula, courtesy of extra chunky riffs, rumbling bass, grooving drum work, and gruff, guttural growls. Stylistically, Bloodphemy mine the death shafts, welding snippets of traditional and brutal death, occasional melodeath nods, and a heaping dose of slammy groove into largely accessible songs, featuring a strong emphasis on simplistic mid-paced stomps and blunt force blasts. The attack has a certain boneheaded charm, with potential to reel in listeners who get their kicks from veteran Danish powerhouse Dawn of Demise, and more recently, the churning, gnarled hooks and grooves of the excellent Bloodgutter. Dawn of Malevolence fails to reach the lofty heights of either band; however, mileage will vary, and they share a similar penchant for thick, slamming riffs and bulldozing grooves.
What they lack in flair, Bloodphemy largely compensate with an energetic, full-blooded attack, managing the tricky act of mixing pulverizing heaviness, with tasty melodies, and a headbangable, accessible streak. “Sanity Obfuscation” channels a bouncier, though still hefty, melodic bent, highlighting the tidy leads and melodic licks of guitarists Bart van Wallenberg and Michel Alderliefsten, while the prominently gritty bass of Robin Zwiep is strongly felt throughout the album. Bruising, grooved-based death and brutal throes serve the band best, though credit goes to their willingness to intertwine other stylistic elements and influences into the mix. “Incarcerated Recollections” ups the pacing and bombast, incorporating melodic death and blackened elements into a solid, though overlong composition, not without its finer moments, even when the blackened parts are a touch jarring. “Therapeutic Torturing” showcases Bloodphemy’s affinity for extra thick, toughened grooves and guttural heft to solid effect, while the beefy riffs and urgent pacing of “Metamorphic Disposition” help consolidate the album’s solid, more efficient early sequence.
Musicianship doesn’t wow in the technical department, but the performances are uniformly tight, the solid production and balanced mix lend weight and clarity to proceedings. However, as entertaining as the album can be, it is not without its faults and detracting elements holding it back. The vocals are mostly solid, but execution is uneven, aiming for variety though falling short in a few areas, such as the cartoony higher pitched work on “Crimson Redemption,” or occasional forced sounding or grating moment. And at nearly 50 minutes, Dawn of Malevolence simply does not contain the songwriting strengths to sustain the album’s length, with judicious editing required to trim down to a more compact runtime. As a result, bloat kicks in and several songs outstay their welcome, such as the aforementioned “Crimson Redemption,” adding unnecessary flab to the final product.
Despite boasting well-earned underground stripes, I approached Bloodphemy without prior experience with the band, and while Dawn of Malevolence doesn’t quite gel together as well as I would like, it has plenty of enjoyable ingredients and a handful of killer songs, though final impact is fleeting. Mixed vocal execution and significant bloat also diminish the album’s overall power, leaving a fun, though ultimately mixed final platter, boasting a handful of cool tunes and beefed-up grooves to snap your neck to.